A forum for comments about Naperville news and issues.

August 2008 Archives

During this Labor Day weekend, the big event in Naperville is Last Fling, summer's final hurrah. There will be loads of activities for the whole family, two stages with bands, including headliners the Doobie Brothers, Dennis DeYoung from Styx, and Gavin DeGraw.

All weekend long, we want to hear about your experience at Last Fling. How were the crowds, the parking and the food? What did you think of the entertainment? How well organized was the event? Let's hear from you. We'll be back with a new topic on Tuesday, but will be publishing your comments on this and all other Potluck entries throughout the weekend. Enjoy the holiday.

A new plan has emerged to save the historic Hammerschmidt mansion off Chicago Avenue. Matthew Rasche is proposing that a civic charity be established to raise $2 million necessary to buy and restore the property. Investors could buy in, up to 800 shares at $2,500 apiece.

Does this sound like something you'd buy into? Would you be willing to invest $2,500 of your money into saving this historic property from the wrecking ball? Do you think enough people will get on board, enough to raise the $2 million needed?

UPDATE 8/29: The Historic Sites Commission Thursday night recommended the mansion be designated a landmark. The recommendation now goes to the City Council, which has final say.

City Council members Bob Fieseler (who comments on the Potluck forum as Councilman Bob) and Grant Wehrli want Naperville to partner with Argonne National Laboratory and Packer Engineering to develop alternative energy technologies such as hydrogen in citywide departments.

The initiative could also involve partnerships with public and private organizations to invite auto makers of hydrogen-powered cars to work in Naperville because of its technical talent base and the city's emphasis on clean energy sources.

We're talking not only the use of hydrogen-powered vehicles by, for example, the public works department, but possibly a hydrogen plant that would generate electricity.

Should Naperville pursue consideration of these ideas? How well is the city embracing alternative energy solutions--far more than other communities, well enough, so-so, or not nearly well enough? What level of taxpayer-funded commitment do you think the city of Naperville should make to renewable energy solutions?

A two-part series beginning in Sunday's Sun explores pensions for public-sector employees. Part I delves into city pensions: how pensions for police officers, firefighters, public works employees and others are funded. A typical 30-year veteran of a municipality these days can expect to collect about $72,000 a year for the rest of his life. And often that person will be in his 50s when he retires.

Part II explains how the burden for funding teacher pensions falls mainly on the state. Still, the income and sales taxes you pay are expected to pay for these comfortable retirement plans.

These days, it's hard to find comparable benefits packages in the private sector, where 401(k) and similar programs designed to help individuals supplement expected Social Security incomes are the norm. Employers often make a modest match, but nothing like the 9 or 10 percent matches that municipalities and school districts kick in.

Given the state's financial situation, it's clear that pension reform is needed. Match amounts are determined by state law. Yet lawmakers seem to lack the political will to even consider reform, what with the clout wielded by unions.

How do we fix this problem? How do we even start? Or, do you even agree that there is a problem? Maybe you think the current pension systems are fair and sustainable, that it will always be the responsibility of taxpayers to fund these programs. It seems unlikely that any proposal to reduce pensions would ever pass--it would be political suicide for any politician to support that.

OK, then, here's a thought: If state law forces local taxpayers to pay for these generous $6,000-a-month retirement plans, what about getting the state or federal government to increase income taxes on those who collect public-sector pensions? Then the recipients at least would have to kick back enough until a fair balance is reached.

What other thoughts or ideas about public-sector pensions do you want to share?

Here's the latest sign of how higher fuel prices are affecting our daily lives: In Naperville School District 203, buses are making 25 percent fewer stops this year to reduce fuel consumption. Fewer stops means that for many children, their stops are farther from their homes. Only a block or so in most cases, the district says, adding that it is fielding many complaints from parents about this, Friday's Sun reports.

Parents, how do you feel about the new system? If you're negatively impacted by it, what do you think should be done? And taxpayers, what do you think? Should the district be commended for trying something that will save money, and positively impact the environment via reduced fuel consumption? If these type of changes are to become the norm, what should district officials consider as they implement them?

Members of the Omnia group proposing a big multi-use residential, retail and performing arts space around the downtown train station recently presented details of the plan to The Sun. A detailed account of the presentation is reported in Friday's Sun.

They addressed issues such as parking, traffic, building heights, density and funding. What it comes down to is this: Omnia -- which owns none of the 52 acres in the proposed area -- wants the city to create a TIF district that would generate revenue to pay for improvements. The project would proceed in phases, and if it wasn't sustainable, it wouldn't proceed.

Omnia representatives have this going for them: the area around the train station is ripe for redevelopment, and the city doesn't have a plan envisioned for the area. Omnia's is one proposal -- at the moment, it's the only proposal. So at least we're getting the ball rolling about what should or could be done with that prime real estate. And, arguably, a big performing arts center could succeed in Naperville.

On the negative side, Omnia does not yet have the support of residents in the area, who would undoubtedly be impacted by such a large-scale project. Nor is it clear whether Omnia has the support of any council members, who tend to heed the concerns of the voting electorate. And the project might appear more viable if Omnia had a developer on board putting up a significant amount of seed money for the investment.

That's what we think. Tell us what you think about the project. What questions do you have about it? Should the council support the concept? How should the council react to the plan?

Ray McGury -- Bolingbrook police chief and a 20-year veteran of the Naperville Police Department -- met with the Naperville Park District board Tuesday night behind closed doors to discuss the vacant executive director position.

He says he could remove the revolving door that has characterized the top administrative post in the Park District for much of the past decade.

On the heels of the Daniel Betts' ridiculously short tenure as parks chief, could McGury be the one to return stability to the Park District? Why did the park board pass over McGury a few months ago when it hired Betts? How do you think Ray McGury would do as Park District executive director?

UPDATE 8/28: The park board has hired Ray McGury to be executive director.

Bill Wiesbrook is the new interim principal at Naperville Central, taking over from Jim Caudill. Wiesbrook was assistant principal at Central at the end of the last school year when Caudill accepted a reassignment in the wake of a plagiarism scandal.

How do you think Wiesbrook will do as principal? What do you like, or dislike about him? At what point do you think Naperville School District 203 should decide on a more permanent replacement, and remove the interim tag if Wiesbrook stays on the job?

Food banks that serve the Naperville say they are in desperate need of assistance. Demand is up. No wonder. With the sluggish economy, more people are out of work and out of jobs. But donations are down, too. Some who may have donated previously have fallen on hard times themselves. And No. 3, food is more expensive to buy, thanks to rising fuel costs and other factors.

What have you considered doing to help out these local agencies that serve people in the community in need? Have you considered donating money? Volunteering your time? Organizing a food drive? Or doing nothing at all?

There are just too many good stories in the paper today, I couldn't decide on a topic for this thread. We have the wonderful, charming story about Naperville's world-famous paleontologist, Paul Sereno, thanking his fifth-grade teacher for influencing him. Daniel Betts has resigned as director of the Naperville Park District. Then there is the tragic story we have exclusively today about two troops, a Marine and a soldier, from Naperville who have been killed while fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So feel free to comment on those stories, or any other story in the paper, or take this opportunity to comment about any Naperville-related topic at all. Or, you can suggest a topic that you think the editors should start a thread about.

Naperville Township trustees did something unusual Tuesday night. They voted to drastically cut salaries for elected officials. The town supervisor's pay, for example, is being slashed in half to $45,000 from $89,000. The town clerk's salary is being cut to $32,000 from $40,000.

These cuts bring Naperville in line with the compensation afforded other township officials in DuPage County.

However, the cuts did not come without a fight. One trustee, Fred Spitzzeri, verbally attacked another, Gary Vician. Spitzzeri called Vician a hypocrite, since Vician voted for pay raises four years ago. Vician said the plan four years ago was to justify the raises because staff cuts were planned, but those savings were never fully realized, Paige Winfiled reports in The Sun.

What do you make of all this? Does the township board deserve praise for acting responsibly and reducing salaries? Or should it be qualified praise, since the board was correcting irresponsible past actions that inflated salaries in the first place? Or should the board be outright criticized for not doing enough to cut costs?

Congratulations customers of Naperville's electric utility. You've helped make the city's alternative-energy program one of the top 10 in the nation! By voluntarily forking over an extra $5 to $15 a month, you've helped Naperville achieve a participation rate of about 7 percent, when the national norm in places that offer such programs is about 2 percent.

Naperville's green-energy program primarily uses wind power to augment the more traditional forms that generate power, which, in Illinois means burning coal, mainly.

Our discussion on this topic is twofold: First, we want to know if you participate in Naperville's green-energy program. If so, why do you freely pay extra, and if you don't participate, why not?

Second, what do you think about the future of the nation's energy programs? How do you feel about nuclear power? How important is it to you to try to be carbon neutral in your energy consumption?

Pardon us for being blunt, but this is getting ridiculous. Peoples' lives could be at stake.

You still mean to tell us, oh wise ones at the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board, that Plainfield -- one of the fastest-growing communities in one of the fastest-growing counties in the nation -- doesn't have enough need for a hospital of its own. Right.

Try telling that to the Plainfield families caught in traffic trying to get to Naperville's Edward Hospital or one of the other full-service hospitals in Aurora or Joliet that are miles and precious minutes away.

Twice before the petition has been denied. We're sure it had nothing to do with Edward CEO Pam Davis blowing the whistle on the pay-to-play-on-steroids corruption at the IHFPB. Her defiance probably brought down Tony Rezko, after all. Nah, that couldn't have anything to do with it. What did the board say last time, out of the blue? That Edward should build a women's hospital? What the hell is that??!!!

Sorry, but we're passionate about the blatant unfairness Edward has had to endure for years. Meanwhile, the Bolingbrook hospital was approved, built and opened. A Joliet hospital's wish to move to New Lenox is granted. And other proposals sail through.

Are we right? What do you think? Will the board on Tuesday finally approve Edward Plainfield Hospital? Or will it deny it, again? Or delay action, again?

UPDATE 3:15 p.m. TUESDAY: The state board once again denied the petition for Edward Plainfield Hospital.

Technology is great at improving convenience. And kids seem to pick up the tricks a lot quicker than adults.

But as a story in Sunday's Sun details, police and parents are increasing concerned that it's often difficult to trace messages and pictures send via cell phones. There's even a legislative push on to require wireless companies to offer parents the ability to retrieve messages from cell phones used by their minor children.

It's scary enough worrying about kids doing inappropriate things on the Internet, but at least computer communications can be tracked. Not so with cell phones, we're learning. Your kids could be taking, sending and receiving improper photos with friends and even strangers, and once they're deleted from the device they could be gone for good.

Sexual predators know this, and police worry that criminals who might meet your kids on the Internet are steering them to cell phones because it's harder to track them down.

How confident are you that your kids aren't doing anything inappropriate with their cell phones or computers? What do you think about the difficulty in tracking cell phone communications? Are you more concerned about tracking criminal conduct, or the potential compromises in user privacy if laws required wireless companies to provide the ability to track transmissions?

A woman was faced with an interesting moral quandary in Naperville this week when she was in a parking deck and spotted a diamond ring with a $25,000 price tag still attached. Without hesitation, she called police and turned it over to authorities, who, three days later were still searching for the band's rightful owner.

What would you do in that situation? What do you think most other people would do? Even if you were tempted to hold onto such a valuable find, would you be afraid of getting caught if you tried to sell it? Would you act differently if you knew -- with absolute certainty -- that you could get away with it?

Boy, some could say there's a leadership vacuum in Naperville. We've been without a city manager since December and the city council seems in no hurry to fill the position. We currently don't have a fire chief. Our Park District executive director is on leave for reasons unknown. And now the schools superintendent is stepping down.

What do think is a better way to fill these positions: to promote from within, or to look outside the city for the best candidate? The trend nowadays is to conduct national searches. But that doesn't always produce the best selection, and it isn't always the best situation for taxpayers. Consider those school superintendents, park directors and city managers who can get fully vested in a very generous pension plan in one state, then a few years later accept a job in another state and before long become eligible to collect another full pension. What a country!

Tell us what you think. Is it better to do a national search, or to promote from within?

Naperville School District 203 Supertindent Alan Leis will retire in June, the district said Wednesday.

Leis has led the district since 2003.

What do you think of the job he's done at the helm? What qualities should the school board look for as it begins the search for a new superintendent?

Metropolitan Planning Council is out with a report that says traffic congestion in the Chicago region is costing $7.3 billion per year in needless commuting time, wasted fuel, environmental damages and other effects of gridlock.

How much attention do you pay to these types of reports? We all know traffic stinks. How much do the findings in a report that took months or years to research and write affect your opinion on the topic?

The real questions remain: What will it take for you to change your driving habits? Have you ever considered car-pooling, using public transportation or other means to reduce the amount of time your vehicle is on the road? If the government wanted to get serious about reducing congestion, what incentives should it offer or investments in mass transit should it make to get vehicles off the road?

The Park District sent a letter June 23 to the about 600 people who take care of the community garden plots at 811 S. West St. Word had gotten out about concept drawings for the 212-acre Caroline Martin Mitchell estate that include moving some garden plots to increase recreation space. Park District and city officials assure people that no plans are final and no decisions will be made without a public discussion process.

Those who garden there enjoy the camaraderie and the therapeutic value in working with the soil. Although, they realize that land in Naperville is prime real estate.

How high a priority should the garden plots be on the city's agenda when figuring out what to do with the 212-acre Caroline Martin Mitchell estate? What does gardening mean to you?

Naperville Potluck

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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from August 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

July 2008 is the previous archive.

September 2008 is the next archive.

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